Historic Towns Forum

Historic Towns and Villages Forum

Published by on 2022-01-27 12:13:18

The Historic Towns & Villages Forum Case Study

The Historic Towns & Villages Forum (HTVF) has been supporting professionals managing change in the historic built environment since 1987.

Originally the (English) Historic Towns Forum, the new partnership of the HTF with the Association of Small Historic Towns and Villages (ASHTAV) has strengthened the Forum's purpose as a resource for all involved in cities, towns, villages, and smaller settlements. The Forum's events and publications focus on perennial and topical issues. This knowledge offers a strong platform from which to lobby policymakers on behalf of historic places, share best practices and compare notes.

The HTVF was founded to establish and encourage contact between local authorities with responsibility for the management of historic towns and cities, and between these authorities and other public, private, and voluntary sector agencies:

  • By organizing conferences and seminars
  • Through its network of expert practitioners and advisors, through partnership links with Government and non-government organizations, policymakers, and private sector companies working in historic towns and cities
  • By researching and producing good practice guidance
  • By influencing key policy-making bodies which keep members' and partners' concerns at the forefront of national agendas
  • Through European links including, the European Association of Historic Towns & Regions

HTVF is funded from three sources: 

  • Membership fees
  • Sponsorship & Corporate Partnerships: The Forum has a special relationship with selected private companies, each representing a particular area of interest. These companies enjoy unique benefits and a high profile within the Forum.
  • Publication sales and events fees.
The HTVF Board, elected by the AGM, meets four times a year to discuss issues, agree on work programs, and make policy decisions.
  • 2011 Annual General Meeting Minutes
  • 2010 Annual General Meeting Minutes
  • 2009 Annual General Meeting Minutes
  • 2012-2013 Annual Report
  • 2011-2012 Annual Report
  • 2010 - 2011 Annual Report

HTVF is administered by part-time staff based in Kellogg College at the University of Oxford.

The Forum holds a strategy meeting approximately annually, bringing members of the Forum together, to discuss policy and strategy issues.

  • Minutes for October 2008 Strategy Meeting
  • The Constitution was last amended by the AGM in October 2009.
  • Business Plan 2010 - 2012
  • Business Plan 2010 - 2012 Additional Information
  • Business Plan 2010 - 2012 Appendices
  • Business Plan 2007 - 2009


"Thank you for the excellent, excellent presentation last week, just superb, couldn’t have come at a better time, and with the information and encouragement you provided we will be able to move forward with confidence."

"Thanks again for a really outstanding day last week."

"Thank you once again for organizing and presenting last week's outstanding HTF Neighbourhood Planning event. We were all impressed by the excellence of the speakers and their presentations and the invaluable discussions, and the opportunity to continue these over such a lovely lunch together was a much-enjoyed bonus!’"

"It was a truly excellent day and you deserve high praise for putting it together. I learned a lot and I am sure that Dorchester's NDP will be all the better for it."

Heritage Protection

St Pauls Church Planning Policy Statement 5 published in the spring of 2010 has become the focus of attention for the heritage sector and HTF is working with many others in the sector to ensure that practitioners are equipped to deal with changes in policy and with the budget cuts which are inevitably going to hit this sector very hard.

HTF welcomed the Government's Statement on the Historic Environment of England 2010. The vision provides a firm statement of intent and properly emphasizes the crucial links that heritage has with social, economic, and cultural well-being.

Heritage awareness in higher education: HTF is working with English Heritage to explore how great a part heritage plays in the degree courses for planning, architecture, urban design, and other professions. Following extensive research, a number of higher education institutions will join a pilot project to develop good practice and teaching and learning resources. 

Conservation Area awareness among owners: Research and anecdotal evidence demonstrates that many property owners may be unaware of the fact that they live or work in a Conservation Area. HTF is piloting a ‘leaflet’ that can be customized by local authorities and made available online or delivered through the door with information and contact details for residents and businesses. 

The Heritage Protection Review promised changes to legislation and policy guidance, and although it was not included in the Queen's Speech in 2008, we were assured that 18 out of the 26 proposals could be implemented without primary legislation. HTF works closely with English Heritage to ensure that the new guidance takes account of the resources available to those charged with its implementation - local authority officers, and to develop appropriate training.

Managing Growth

Historic towns and cities are environmentally attractive, offer a good quality of life, are frequently prosperous, and are, in varying degrees, models of sustainable development. It is in part a consequence of these qualities that historic towns are facing the challenge of unprecedented growth. It is important to find strategies to deal with this in ways that not only conserve the identity and sense of place of the existing town but also try to ensure the creation of distinctive sustainable new communities as part of them.

Architects, conservationists, and planners are familiar with the challenge of fitting individual new buildings and small infill developments into a historic environment. Growth poses a quite different challenge of how to successfully integrate major developments, regeneration schemes, and urban extensions into existing historic towns. There are challenges of infrastructure, partnership working, working with major national developers, the tension between modernity and pastiche, and how to learn from the past and the present when building at this scale.

The HTF has explored ways of responding to the growth agenda through conferences and publications. Key issues in effectively addressing the growth pressures include:

  • Planning and process
  • Partnerships
  • Finance and economics
  • Climate change
  • Community benefits and community engagement
  • Design
  • Learning from the past and present

Park and Ride as part of an integrated transport strategy

Winchester Park & Ride has been a significant element of transport strategies in historic towns for many years and the EHTF guidance documents helped to establish good practice. However P&R is not a panacea and together with recent advances in technologies, it is necessary to update this guidance and to offer information to support decision-makers.
Following the conference – “Park & Ride as part of an integrated transport strategy” - held in Winchester early in 2009, a task group made up of representatives from RPS, Sustrans, the BPA, Colin Buchanan, the IHE, and members of HTF, was set up to disseminate the conference outcomes and to develop a new web-based guidance vehicle.

This web page and its links will be built over the next few months to bring together expert advice, case studies, and other information, as well as continue to collect data to inform its development.

Public Realm


The state of the streetscape has risen up the agendas of politicians and practitioners. After many years of projects and campaigns, together with other organizations, HTF continues to pursue this topic looking at traffic management and the public realm with connectivity. This not only enhances the historic built environment but there is a growing body of evidence to support the value - in economic, social, and environmental terms - of investment in the public realm which contributes to regeneration and sustainability.

Exploring Shared Space

Warwickshire County Council explored more radical traffic management solutions for some of its historic towns and the Shared Space model was one which was presented, by its advocate Ben Hamilton-Baillie, at a seminar on 18 November 2009 hosted by Arup, the consultant working with the Authority.

The Historic Core Zone model was also discussed after a presentation by Chris Winter (HTF Director) who also showed examples from Europe collected by former Chair Ian Poole during his CABE scholarship tour, read more.

Space Scholarship Winner Ian Poole, former HTF Chair, undertook a 35 day European study tour of the management and maintenance of streets and squares in historic towns and cities. 

In March 2009 HTF was invited to join a working group made up of representatives of English Heritage, CABE Space, Living Streets, Colin Davis & Assoc, Urban Design Group, CPRE, Assoc of English National Parks and Ben Hamilton Baillie to input into the Department of Transport's - Traffic Signs Review'.

The 'Manual for Streets' (DfT 2007) which replaces DB32 will make a significant impact on this area (HTF comments). In 2008 the Forum published its answer to this publication - advocating a much wider application of the principles - Manual for Historic Streets (2008). This very rapidly sold out of hard copies and is now available as a pdf on cd.

Following a workshop held in January 2007, the conference in July 2007 in Leicester - Streetscape in Historic Towns - the theory and the implementation- looked at the ambitious City Centre Public Realm Strategy in place there, looking at all aspects of the City regeneration through coordinated improvements to the public realm.


Seven StoriesThere are now many examples of historic towns and cities in which local heritage assets have been used to support regeneration. Other towns can adapt these experiences, whilst still retaining, and even enhancing, their own local distinct character.

Economic regeneration must be balanced with local distinctiveness and local trade. The event in Cardiff in May 2010 examined the role of retail development in economic regeneration and its impact on historic city centers.

Investment in the public realm really does pay dividends, but potential investors may still need persuasion, and looking after the built heritage can be complex and expensive. Focus on the Public Realm offers guidance and examples of good practice.

The Forum's Annual Conference held in Newcastle in 2007 looked at 'Maximising the value of industrial heritage in historic towns' with examples of good practice in the restoration, regeneration, and re-use of old buildings.

An earlier visit to Newcastle and Gateshead in June 2005 explored 'Using heritage and cultural assets in regeneration.

'Investing in Heritage: Case Study Buxton' (2004), is a brief account of the experience of a small town's success in attracting funding and the delivery of projects on the ground. This was the outcome of an event held in Buxton in the summer of 2004.

These publications offer a range of guidance that can be tailored to the needs of HTF members, while we maintain a dialogue with Government departments and other policy-making bodies to ensure the value and the special needs of historic towns and cities are promoted.

HEART (Heritage Economic & Regeneration Trust) aims to provide a unique co-ordinating umbrella role for heritage management, development, and promotion in Norwich and to become an international best practice model in heritage-led regeneration.

Retail Development

The demand for expansion of the retail offer in many historic towns, in order to remain competitive and economically viable, has created a challenge for those wishing to protect and enhance local distinctiveness. The more recent economic downturn offers a chance to reflect on the best way forward in this dilemma.
An event held in Cardiff in May 2010 – “The role of retail development in economic regeneration” examined the role of retail development in economic regeneration and its impact on historic city centers, using St David’s 2 Dewi Sant as a case study.

An article by Ian Anderson, Head of Retail and Leisure Planning at CB Richard Ellis - “Planning for prosperous town centers? - PPS 4 – its impacts & implications” looked at the possible way ahead.

In York in September 2009 leading experts from both private and public sectors offered new information on retail development - see report 'Retail development in historic towns: time for reflection'

Breakfast in Bath on 12 March 2009 was a chance for Members and non-members in the SW region to network and to learn about the Cabot Circus and Southgate developments in Bristol and Bath.

HTF partner John Lewis Partnership hosted a seminar on 2 April 'New retail opportunities: the key to regeneration in town centers?' - at the Leckford Estate in Hampshire which brought together an invited audience of representatives from local authorities in the southwest to discuss the policy implications of new Planning Policy Statements 4 / 6.

'Focus on Retail' was launched in March 2008 at a conference held in Exeter - 'Retail development in historic towns: case study Princesshay'.

Previously conferences were held in Bristol (2007) looking at the Cabot Circus and in Birmingham (2005) exploring the Bull Ring development and the issues surrounding retail-led regeneration.

'Retail Development in Historic Areas' was published in 2005 in partnership with English Heritage.

Sustainable Tourism

Tourism continues to put pressure on our historic towns and cities, especially as smaller towns become aware of the 'benefits' of tourism, but not necessarily of the potential costs.

HTF in the Republic of Ireland 2009

In July 2009 a small group representing the Forum took part in a conference in Kilkenny Castle sharing good practices on Placemaking, using case studies in Cork, Youghal, and Waterford, as well as exploring Kilkenny.

In partnership with Fáilte Ireland, the conference will include a Tourism workshop. Inspired by the Forum's good practice guidance documents on tourism, the Irish national tourism organization aims to produce its own guidance, using this workshop as a sounding board, see more.

A conference held in Morecambe in June 2008 looked at 'Tourism in historic towns - a quality offer'.

'Focus on Tourism'(2006) offers principles of good practice and practical methods of management and Making the Connections (1999) offers comprehensive guidance to managing tourism.

'Code of Practice for Coach-Based Tourism'(2002) which offers guidance to operators and managers is available to download free of charge.

Identity, Diversity, and Tourism - "Tourism is just one of the many forces for change affecting historic towns and should not be treated as a scapegoat". This was the message given by Ian Poole (then EHTF Vice-Chair) at the 2006 European Association of Historic Towns and Regions (EAHTR) Symposium in Dubrovnik at the end of September.

The need for more and better statistics has been identified and HTF continues to play a role in developing improved data collection and dissemination, and work towards the development of sustainable tourism. The additional competition from an enlarged Europe is another area that needs addressing if England is to use its historic assets to maximum benefit.

Transport & Traffic Management

Our marriage to the car has had an increasing impact on historic towns and innovation in transport management has been at the heart of the work of the Forum since its earliest days.

A Historic Core Zone is being considered as the solution to traffic management in Bradford on Avon. A visit to Wiltshire town on 10 June 2010 explored the issues and the proposed solution – applying the principles of the HCZ projects. View the conference report: A Historic Core Zone - the solution to traffic management in a Historic Town?

'Parking and Park & Ride - as part of an integrated transport strategy' is the title of the conference which took place on 14 May 2009 in Winchester - an example of how P&R can work in smaller historic towns.

The Forum's 2000 'P&R' publication continues to sell well (in many countries!) but the technology of recent years requires us to reappraise this. A review of P&R is being undertaken in partnership with RPS, and a survey will provide important new data, which will be disseminated at the conference.

Due to unpredicted demand 'Manual for Historic Streets' (2008) is now out of print but is available on cd. This was launched at the conference in Durham 'Designing for movement: Transport and regeneration in historic towns' on 1 May 2008, in response to the 'Manual for Streets' (DfT 2007), which replaced DB32 as guidance to planning and highway authorities. This was welcomed by the Forum and the HTF full response and press release are available.

'Transport innovation in historic towns', a conference held in 2007 in Shrewsbury - the location of one of the original Historic Core Zones projects in 1998 - looked at some of the innovative ideas which have been pioneered by the Forum's member authorities and how they are using the Government's 'Transport Innovation Fund' (TIF) to implement strategies for improvement, not only to traffic management but to the urban environment in which we live, work and play.

The 2005 Annual Conference, held in Oxford, explored 'Transportation and the historic public realm', bringing together two important issues.


Extending the Forum's membership to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland have given us the opportunity to expand the working relationship that we already have with the Irish Walled Towns Network and the Heritage Council. 

Study tour of the Republic of Ireland: The conference held in Kilkenny in June 2009 emphasized the potential for joint working between HTF and the organizations in the Republic of Ireland responsible for the historic environment and tourism. The Forum&rsquo's work on the public realm and tourism management is held in great regard in Ireland and we are currently discussing a strategy to exchange information and good practice. Benefits to our Members will accrue through the opportunities to look at a wider range of case studies and to enlarge the Membership base.

Streetscape across Europe

Former Chair of the Forum, Ian Poole, was awarded a CABE Space Travel Scholarship in 2008. The copiously illustrated, initial report of his study of design and maintenance of streetscape through eight European countries can be seen here (1.85MB)

Heritage Zone

EAHTR is developing a new online forum for heritage specialists called 'Heritage Zone' - funded by the EU Culture Programme. The site is now ready for development and can be found at

European Centre on Public Space has launched a new website which will function as a European platform on public space, linking interested organizations and experts. For further details visit:

2008 Events

The Forum, in partnership with EAHTR, organized a study tour of the Netherlands to explore how the Dutch manage some of their beautiful historic towns. 

Presentation given in s-Hertogenbosch.

2007 Events

October 2007 UK Launch of 'INHERIT' Publication at the HTF event held in Newcastle. Chester City Council sent out an invitation to participate in a series of events held between 25-30 June for European week. 

2006 Events

EAHTR here an International symposium in Dubrovnik.

Events prior to 2006

  • Slovenian Study Tour - July 2004
  • Estonian Study Tour - June 2002
  • Czech Republic Study Tour - July 1998